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The two verses serve as a general introduction to Josh. 9–11. The Canaanites had recovered to some extent from their panic Joshua 9:1, perhaps in consequence of the repulse of the Israelites before Ai. They resolved to make a league and to resist jointly the progress of the Israelites. The defection of Gibeon Joshua 9:3-27 determined the five kings of the Amorites, whose territories were nearest Gibeon, to take instant action against that city. Their forces were defeated by Joshua in the battle before Gibeon (Joshua 10:1 ff). The other confederates subsequently gathered their armies together, Joshua 11:1-5, and were defeated at the waters of Merom (Joshua 11:6 ff). The former of these two great battles gave Joshua possession of the southern half of Palestine west of Jordan; the latter of the northern half.
In the hills - See the Numbers 13:17 note.
The valleys - Or “the vale” (the Shephelah, Deuteronomy 1:7), which imports the lowland country between the mountains and the sea coast.
Gibeon was the head of the four towns Joshua 9:17 occupied by the Hivites Joshua 11:19. The inhabitants were Amorites 2 Samuel 21:2; the name “Amorites” being used as a general name for the Canaanite population (Deuteronomy 1:44 note). The Hivites seem to have had a non-monarchical form of government (compare Joshua 9:3, Joshua 9:11), but their city was Joshua 10:2 in size and importance equal to those cities which the kings of the country made their capitals. Gibeon signifies “pertaining to a hill,” i. e. built on a hill (compare Gibeah and Geba, towns in the same neighborhood), and describes the site, which is on two of the rounded hills unique to this district. It is still known as El-Jib, and lies about five miles north of Jerusalem by the most direct route. It stands at the head of the pass of Beth-horon, through which lies the main route from Jerusalem and the lower Jordan valley to Joppa and the sea coast. Thus from its position, no less than from the number and valor of its people Joshua 10:2, it was one of the most important cities of southern Canaan. Gibeon fell within the lot of Benjamin Joshua 18:25, and was one of the cities assigned to the priests Joshua 21:17. In later times it was famous as the scene of various events (2 Samuel 2:12-17; 2 Samuel 20:4-13; 1 Kings 2:28-29, compare with 1 Chronicles 16:39). It was for a long time the spot where the tabernacle of Moses, together with the brass altar of burnt offering 1 Chronicles 21:29 and other portions of the sacred furniture, were placed. It was the scene of the magnificent ceremonial with which Solomon inaugurated his reign 1 Kings 3:0, but no doubt lost much of its importance after the tabernacle and its accompaniments were removed to the temple of Solomon.
They did work wilily - literally, “they also,” or “they too, did work, etc.” The “also” serves, apparently, to connect the stratagem of the Gibeonites with that employed by the Israelites before Ai. It hints that the Gibeonites resolved to meet craft with craft.
Rent and bound up - i. e. the wine skins were torn and roughly repaired by tying up the edges of the tear. The more thorough and careful way, hardly feasible in a hasty journey, would have been to insert a patch.
Camp at Gilgal - While Joshua was engaged in more distant enterprises, the women, children, and property of the Israelites were left with a sufficient guard at this place, where they had been established immediately after crossing the Jordan Joshua 5:9.
Compare the marginal references.
The elders of Israel Joshua 9:18, tasting what was offered them by the Gibeonites, pledged themselves according to the usage of Eastern nations to peace and friendship with them. They credited the story at once, instead of seeking the direction of God in the matter. The rendering of the margin is not to be preferred to that of the text.
At the mouth of the Lord - i. e. by the Urim and Thummim Exodus 28:30.
Chephirah (Kefir) is situated eight or nine miles west of Gibeon, and was an inhabited city in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah Ezra 2:25; Nehemiah 7:29.
Beeroth (Birch), about eight miles north of Jerusalem. Kirjath-jearim, i. e. “city of woods,” is identified by Robinson with the modern Kuriet el Enab, nine miles from Jerusalem on the road to Jaffa (and by Conder with Soba). The town was numbered among those belonging to Judah, and was in the northern boundary of that tribe. Beyond this city the six hundred Danites encamped on their famous expedition to Laish Judges 18:12. Kirjath-jearim was also, and probably before the Israelite conquests exclusively, called Baalah and Kirjath-baal Joshua 15:9, Joshua 15:60, names which seem to point to its early sanctity as a special seat of Baal-worship. To this place also the ark was brought from Beth-shemesh after it was sent back by the Philistines, and here it remained for twenty years 1 Samuel 6:20-21; 1 Samuel 7:2. It was fetched thence by David and deposited in the house of Obed-edom 2 Samuel 6:2. Hence, the allusion, Psalms 132:6, where David is said to have found the ark “in the fields of the wood.”
Render “they shall be hewers of wood and drawers of water:” menial duties belonging to the lowest classes only (compare the marginal reference). The curse of Noah Genesis 9:25 on the children of Ham was thus fulfilled to the letter in the case of these Hivites.
Were the Israelites bound to respect an oath thus procured by fraud? Were they right in doing so? Dr. Sanderson (“Works,” vol. iv. 4 pp. 269, 300, Oxford edition), determines these questions in the affirmative; and rightly, since the oath, though unlawfully taken, was not an oath taken to do an unlawful thing, i. e. a thing in itself unlawful. It was the carelessness of the Israelites themselves which betrayed them into this league. It was therefore their duty when they found themselves entrapped into this unlawful covenant, to devise means by which they might respect both their own oath and God’s purposes as intimated in His injunctions Deuteronomy 7:2 against sparing the Canaanites. This was accomplished by granting their lives to the Gibeonites, but reducing them to a servile condition, which might be expected to disable them from influencing the Israelites to do wrong. It may be added, that had the Israelites broken their oath, taken solemnly in the Name of the Lord, they would have brought that Name into contempt among the pagan; and, while punishing perfidy in others, would have themselves, the Lord’s people, incurred the reproach of perjury. The result showed that Joshua and the princes judged rightly in this matter. God gave to Israel a notable victory, crowned with special miracles, over the kings who were confederated against Gibeon, because of the treaty made with Israel Joshua 10:4, Joshua 10:8,Joshua 10:13; and God punished as a national act of blood-guiltiness the slaughter of the Gibeonites by Saul, which was a distinct violation of the covenant here before us (compare 2 Samuel 21:1). This sparing of the Gibeonites, as well as the previous sparing of Rahab and her household, must be borne in mind when the massacre of the Canaanites by Joshua and the Israelites is discussed.
It was mere fear which drove the Gibeonites to act as they did. They sought for union with God’s people, not for its own sake, but to save their lives. Rahab’s motives were higher (Joshua 2:9 ff). Hence, she was adopted into Israel; the Gibeonites remained forever bondsmen of Israel.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Joshua 9". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13